On a chain, his cleats and in his heart, Cordarrelle Patterson doesn't forget the son he lost

Cordarrelle Patterson remembers his stillborn son with his cleats for My Cause My Cleats. Michael Rothstein/ESPN.com

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. – The small gold chain never comes off Cordarrelle Patterson's neck, a constant reminder of the greatest pain he ever experienced, of the person never too far from his mind or his heart.

In 2017, Patterson and his partner, Taylor, lost their son, Zyan, 18 or 20 weeks into her pregnancy – a feeling so indescribable even now, years later, the Atlanta Falcons running back still doesn’t want to delve too deeply into.

But in his pain -- the never-ending grief of losing a child -- he also wanted others to understand they are not alone. That life can be wonderful and can be cruel and that experiences -- as tragic as they may be -- are not solitary.

So on Sunday, Patterson will don multicolored cleats with butterflies on them and words on the side reading "Pregnancy & infant loss awareness" to offer acknowledgment, awareness and support to those going through what he once did. Patterson said his partner still delivered the child after they found out they lost their son.

“Every day goes by we still think about our son and what happened,” Patterson said. “It happens every day in life, honestly. Some people don’t understand that some ladies only have one chance to get pregnant and they lose their baby and never have the opportunity to do it again.

“For me, it’s real big for me and my family and just looking back, it’s sad. It’s heartbreaking.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one pregnancy out of every 160 in the United States is stillborn -- meaning at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later -- and there are about 24,000 babies stillborn per year in the United States. The March of Dimes reports between 10 and 15 of every 100 pregnancies end in miscarriage.

It's a feeling almost impossible to put into words.

Patterson knows they are fortunate, too. Zyan was Patterson’s middle child. He has a 9-year-old, an 8-year-old, a 3-year-old and a 10-month old. And he loves all of his kids. But the child he never got to watch grow up sticks with him daily.

It’s something he said no one could ever really process because “you never think it can happen to you.”

“It makes you look at life different,” Patterson said. “People don’t think it can happen to them, but it happens every day in life and when it happens to you, that’s when it hits home.”